Forest woes; letter to Albas and Donaldson
Most Canadians no longer expect much from their members of parliament, or from their provincial legislature members. And that’s what they’re getting! It’s a sad example of progressive decline in the already sad state of a badly tattered democracy.
But that does not excuse elected ‘representatives’ for their resistance to read and consult, not only the traditional corporate and senior civil service water haulers – but informed people who do their analysis and interpretation outside the now highly private and paralyzed chain of government command. Had these people ever had the backbone to step outside the elitist shelter of the insider and corporate world, we would all be a far better place today than we are.
If central B.C. MP Dan Albas wanted to do something for the forest Industry – not withstanding what he should actually be doing, which is stepping up for the citizens of B.C. and their long standing fears and observations that B.C. forests are badly managed, critically over exploited, and very poorly protected – he would demand that B.C. Ministry of Forests, Land and Resource Operations produce a detailed annual report.
That report should set out for B.C. public lands shareholders – citizens – how B.C. ‘manages’ forests, who gets preferential use of our forests, and what these corporations or license/permit holders pay to taxpayers for exploiting public land, forests and ecosystems.
Imagine if you put your money in the bank and never, at least for 15 years, as is the case in B.C. with the Forest Service – saw a statement or knew what was happening to your investment or savings, except that you saw some big corporations and CEO’s consistently walking out of your bank with a big smile on their face! That’s B.C. forest management!
The fact that the ‘new’ government – Premier Horgan and Minister Responsible for Public Forests Doug Donaldson – didn’t and haven’t changed this when first elected – is preposterous.
Small wonder that the U.S. trade representatives don’t trust B.C. Subsidies and handouts to the timber industry in B.C. allow them extreme advantage over the U.S. timber industry (active on public land) that have a strong suit of environmental management and protection regulations and laws they have to abide by.
Needless to say, they do that only if and when the U.S. public holds its hands to the fire using those democratic and legal regulations that entitle citizens to go to court or administrative appeal demanding US Forest Service accountability. You and I don’t have those rights in B.C.
I’d be the last person on earth to argue this regulatory umbrella in the US is perfect, or even satisfactory, but imagine, as is the case in B.C., if it were entirely absent, and always had been! Logging companies operating on federal public land in the U.S. are constrained (relatively speaking) by at least nine pieces of legislation, ranging from forcing preparation of publicly vetted Forest Management Plans, to off road vehicle use plans, to environmental impact assessment of logging plans, to open-to-the-public meetings, to endangered species protection. None of these are present in B.C.
Observers need only look at decimated watersheds, grossly excessive road systems degrading habitat and sucking money out of the pockets of taxpayers or bleeding sediment in community watersheds and fish habitat, mill owners blathering about the high cost of logs, and mayors demanding handouts and a return to the good old days to see the costly social, economic, and environmental consequences of a forest management system with no public accountability, no science based protection standards, and an entitled attitude that crushes citizen fingers in the door jamb when they try to intercede.
MP Albas has missed the boat when he decries Forest Management in B.C. for not giving more to industry and mill workers. He’s either uninformed or grandstanding. In either case, he’s only helping cripple the ecological viability of forests, public lands and all the critters, humans included, that do and will increasingly depend upon protection for public lands and downsizing an obese timber industry.
What he should be doing is standing on the pulpit demanding powerful, written, laws and regulations to dramatically elevated the scale of protection and recovery of ecologically effective and functional forests.
– Dr. Horejsi is a wildlife and forest ecologist and a resident of B.C. He writes about environmental affairs, public resource management and governance and their entrenched legal and social bias.
Lead image: Todays ‘forest’ surrounding a 250-year-old tree stump. Images courtesy Brian L. Horejsi